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TN Voter ID Law Challenged in U.S. District Court

Photo: The constitutionality of Tennessee's voter ID law is being called into question with a lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in Nashville. Photo courtesy: flickr.com/JasonBrackins
Photo: The constitutionality of Tennessee's voter ID law is being called into question with a lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in Nashville. Photo courtesy: flickr.com/JasonBrackins
March 9, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee's voter ID law may have its day in court now that a group of college students has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the state is violating rights guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution.

At issue is the exclusion of student ID cards from the accepted list of voter IDs.

Jon Sherman, an attorney with the Fair Elections Legal Network, is representing the students.

"The state has discriminated against students and discriminated on the basis of age,” he states. “They've made it easier for older voters to cast ballots without showing ID and made it harder and harder for students to cast their votes."

Tennessee does not require voters submitting an absentee ballot with an acceptable excuse such as illness to provide a copy of their ID.

Sherman adds that most other states that do have strict voter ID laws allow for student IDs as an accepted form of identification. Only Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas do not.

Tennessee's voter ID law was passed in 2011. The state insists that a lack of uniformity among student IDs would make it difficult for poll workers.

In 2012, the U.S. the Government Accountability Office determined youth turnout dropped by more than 2 percent as a result of the law.

Sherman says there are thousands of students in Tennessee who are legal residents and legal voters, but who do not or cannot obtain a state-issued photo ID.

"A lot of students are residents of Tennessee but they don't have anything except the ID they got while they were a high school student back in their prior residence and their student ID card," he points out.

The plaintiffs in the case are waiting on the state's response to their lawsuit. Out-of-state students can get a free ID-only Tennessee card and be allowed to vote, but the lawsuit asserts that process is not feasible for many students.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN